Dan Carter: A life in undies

In 2014, Duncan Greive was invited to interview Dan Carter on the back of the All Black’s spokesmodelling gig for Jockey underwear – a meeting that would eventually lead to Greive co-writing Carter’s autobiography, My Story. To celebrate today’s big Dan Carter news, we republish that original Metro story here.

In 2003, when Dan Carter first made the All Blacks, he was a baby-faced 21-year-old, with an underwear drawer to match. He was used to surviving off of birthdays and christmases, “two drops a year”. The long, lean months between March and December yawned out in front of him. When supplies got low, as they often did back then, he was faced with that awful choice familiar to so many men of a certain age: inside out, or commando.

He doesn’t hesitate. “Inside out, yeah, if you’ve been a bit lazy on the washing. [Commando] is a bit gross.”

Those days on struggle street ended abruptly when undie giant Jockey swooped down on the youngster and changed his life forever. They inked him to a contract which would put him on billboards around the country, billboards so large and pungently sexual they frightened his mother, and made Carter himself change his commute to avoid them. Billboards which inspired more billboards: horrible radio station The Rock advertises their morning show with Ali Williams using the slogan ‘We can’t all flog heat pumps and undies’.

Jockey have continued to renew the contract for a clean decade, flying him around the world to front international campaigns. He now has what must be comfortably the most extensive collection of men’s underwear in the country – “30, 40 pairs? Plenty” – and has indisputably earned his title as New Zealand’s ‘king of the undies’.

It wasn’t always so glamorous, though. Growing up on the farm, times were tough.

“It’s embarrassing,” he winces. “I think we had the old y-front beauties.”

Life would get worse before it got better. As teenager in the ‘90s, Carter ran headlong into arguably the worst underwear trend of the past century: shiny satin boxers.

“I think I had Simpsons ones,” he says. “You’d always wear them a couple of inches higher than your pants so people could see you were wearing them. Even like rugby shorts, you’d pull them down below the rugby shorts, so people could see you were wearing these heinous boxers.”

For most men that ‘phase’ lasted well into their twenties, often until a significant other came into their lives and forcibly removed them from the rotation. Carter was saved at a young age by his Jockey contract, but, perhaps as a consequence, it stunted his growth. Shockingly, this underwear aficionado’s palette is limited to just two colours: navy and black.

Carter’s a famous clotheshorse, the former proprietor of a chain of menswear stores and owner of Louis Vuitton hoodie. Was he never, away from his sponsor’s prying eyes, tempted to try some fancy European undies?

“No, I haven’t, actually. I’m pretty loyal to Jockey,” he says. Perhaps he’s cowed by our company: a Jockey publicity manager, the two PR representatives and his agent, New Zealand’s Next Top Model host Sara Tetro. Perhaps he’s actually wearing a silk Armani g-string. Perhaps not. “Jockey actually have a European market that they push. It’s pretty out there – you’ve got the fluoro colours and things like that. I’ve got some sitting at home, but they just sit at the bottom of my drawers.”

We’re here today because Jockey have just launched a range of so-called ‘magic undies’. That’s not actually what Jockey call them (they prefer ‘SMART FABRIC Performance Underwear’), but just listen to what these sci-fi future-gruts can do for a man. The ‘celliant’ technology purportedly “absorbs energy from the body and reflects it back into the deep muscles in the body to enhance blood oxygen levels to help with recovery”.

It’s easy to be cynical, but you can’t argue with science. Believe me – I’ve tried. So has DC noticed the impact?

“You do notice the weight of them, the feel of them,” he says. “This is going to sound weird. This is going to sound really weird… The way they breathe.”

I’m incredulous. “Like on your stuff? Your junk? Your penis and your balls?”

“Nah, the way they breathe,” he says angrily. “You don’t get really warm. You’re not sweating like anything in them.”

He goes on. “As a sportsman, you’re looking for that extra 1% or advantage on your opponents, so having technology like this can only help. helps you through your recovery, helps you train and live every day at your optimum.”

I’m sold. But I’m also concerned. Are these performance enhancing undies? Should WADA be involved? Jockey gave me two pairs to take home and try, in the privacy of my own home. I don’t know if it was because I was concentrating on how my underwear felt for the first time in my adult life, but they did feel different. The slippery, shiny fabric made my genitals tingle. Maybe Dan was just being honest on that sunny day in August.

With our time slipping away, I ask what advice he’d give to young guys starting out in undies.

“I think just stick to the dark colours,” he says. “And make sure you keep on your mum’s case, to keep the washing updated.”

Dan Carter. World Cup winner. Underwear tycoon. Probably not a feminist. But a good sport.

This story was first published in the March 2014 issue of Metro.



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